Have your cake and eat it too

When we lived in the UK, we participated in many monthly health awareness raising events. Partly because my (last) job was a Cancer Information Specialist working within the Library Service – so was aware of just about every health campaign that exists. In fact, it was during one of these that I ended up becoming vegan for a year or so. I took part in Veganuary in January 2017 – but found it very hard so resorted back to eating a bit of cheese, but then dabbled with veganism for the following year or so, before moving out to France and finding that I really struggled without all the “meat replacements” that are readily available in the UK (I can eat Quorn but this doesn’t seem to have made it to France yet, but not Seitan which is available, and can only tolerate small amounts of Tofu). So, I conceded that sticking with vegetarian was the way to go henceforth. At least I tried!!

This year Martin and I done our usual January detox in which we attempt to recover from the excesses of Christmas. It’s funny how we always say we will “treat ourselves” by eating cakes, chocolate and our body weight in cheese, but then we end up feeling really ill afterwards – fat, bloated and in my case awful skin rashes. It’s hardly “treating” ourselves.

We aimed to cut out alcohol, meat and fish, wheat, dairy and sugar. Loosely following Carol Vorderman’s Detox for Life.

We managed the alcohol part absolutely no problem at all – neither of us drink much anymore, and obviously being vegetarian the meat was not a problem, we had only been eating occasional fish, so that didn’t bother us either. The wheat was not too bad – I have discovered red lentil and chickpea pasta which I love – and it doesn’t bloat me out like regular pasta does. But I could not manage to stop eating my favourite bread.

However, dairy was a big problem – out of all the dairy products it is only cheese and yogurt that I can manage to eat. I am lactose intolerant – and they both have some of the lactose removed in the process. I heave at the mere thought of drinking cow’s milk – I cannot stand the stuff, and as much as I like cream, any more than a tablespoon really upsets my tummy.

But I love cheese – all types – so I didn’t manage to cut back on this at all.

However, the really big shock was mine (and Martin’s) complete inability to cut back on sugar!

It seems that the bad habits of the past few years of Pain au Raisin, cookies and cakes (both at friends’ houses and also since I was lucky enough to get a fantastic Kenwood Food Mixer, I have been venturing into cake making myself) have crept up on us and we realised we were both suffering from quite bad sugar addictions.

Having a family history of Type 2 Diabetes (Mum and Uncle Peter were both borderline and managed well through diet alone) and knowing damn well that when I lived in the UK my blood glucose levels were high up within the pre-diabetes brackets – I know only too well that I can’t afford to let this become too much of a problem. I’ve been in denial for the past few years – struggling with weight gain – mostly around my tummy – all the classic signs of insulin resistance – middle aged spread, daily headaches, carb withdrawals, grumpiness after eating carb heavy meals, carb cravings, constantly hungry.

On top of all these things I am trying to eradicate Helicobacter Pylori and the resulting gastritis and sugar is a big no, no for this, and hyperglycaemia increases the risk of cancer in people with H Pylori – so in short, sugar will stop me clearing it – AND if I don’t clear it sugar will increase my chances of gastric cancer.

And, apparently Covid-19 raises your blood glucose – so if you have issues with high blood glucose and were to catch Covid-19 then this could be an issue.

Martin also acknowledged that he had a big problem with sugar too – not with weight gain – he’s as skinny as a pogo stick but he finds it impossible to say no to sweet things and cake, and he also gets very grumpy after eating sugary things – often resulting in the two of us having silly arguments just because we were having sugar crashes!!

So, we decided that we would both participate in Sugar Free February – a national campaign that in the UK is organised by Cancer Research UK. We decided that we would both do it as it’s easier to resist temptation if we are both saying no to sweet treats.

Martin is the one with a sweeter tooth than me – I will only eat it if it’s there and put in front of me – whereas Martin will go out of this way to seek out cakes!! So, it was only fair that I at least tried to make some sugar free cakes and treats. I also planned all our meals to include foods with naturally occurring sugars to help him cope with his sugar cravings.

In the aftermath of our “not very successful” January detox and the lead up to Sugar Free February – we discussed my “pre-diabetes” and decided it would be a good idea to get a Blood Glucose Monitor Testing Kit. One of the big challenges for me living in France is not really knowing how I can get routine health checks conducted – and I am a bit fearful that if I have some blood tests done to check for diabetes my readings will be high enough that the (over exuberant at times) French doctors will simply put me on metformin  and then it will be a vicious circle of being on a drug that makes you fat, and a condition that gets worse when you are fat. I’m much keener to manage any health issues with diet than medication having watched family members being prescribed drug after drug to the extent that no-one really knew which ones were for the issue and which ones were for the side effects.

So, we embarked on Sugar Free February in very good spirits. On the second day I had an awful headache which I know from experience would be a sugar withdrawal headache – this was explained to me very well by a wonderful GP that I had in the UK – she drew me a chart once which I still have!!

It explained how, even though I was sticking strictly to a diet throughout the week because when the weekend arrived and I “treated myself” my body wasn’t able to get into fat burning mode and my sugar levels were all over the place – lots of sugar over the weekend and then no sugar from Monday – by Wednesday I would have a sugar withdrawal headache. Even though I understood this – I could never quite manage to grasp the concept of having to stick to a healthy eating plan ALL OF THE TIME!!

Once my Blood Sugar monitor arrived it all suddenly became quite serious – my initial results were very high – way into the pre-diabetes range which meant that although it started out as a light hearted month long restraining from sugar it now seems like more of a long- term thing.

Reassuringly, after a few days I noticed the readings coming down – and soon they settled into mostly the normal range with the occasional higher reading in the morning – which I have since learnt is referred to as the Dawn Phenomenon the strange occurrence where even though you go to bed with a low reading and don’t eat during the night – your body still continues to make blood glucose and in turn insulin and if your body is funny (like mine) it doesn’t know what to do with it so it raises the blood sugar level.

There have been so many benefits to giving up sugar – it has quite simply been life changing and I am so happy about it!!

Firstly, I am so reassured to know that I can get my readings into a normal range – this means I am less scared of catching Covid-19. The issue with Covid-19 and high blood glucose is that if I were to have un-stable high blood pressure, and then caught Covid-19 which raises it even further then the result could be catastrophic – that’s not a risk I am willing to take when there is something I can do about it.

Secondly, and possibly the most life-changing aspect is no more headaches!! I have gone from having daily headaches – every single day of my life I would have a fuzzy head – which on at least 2 days a week would be a full-blown thumping head that would make me feel sick, light sensitive, and very, very tired – ALL GONE!!!! I have had 3 headaches to date since stopping eating sugar! One (already mentioned) on the 2nd day as the sugar left my body. One on a day when I ate too many carbs the day before. One on a day when I had a bit of a cold threatening to take hold. But all of these have been much less severe!! I am so happy.

I also have much less fuzzy head, much more clarity……

the line from Fergie’s song Big Girls Don’t Cry

keeps going round my head

“Clarity…..peace…….serenity”

It’s amazing!! I feel lighter – like a huge weight is lifted from my shoulders. My brain feels sharper! I feel happier!

My weight has changed – I’ve been struggling so much with my weight since peri-menopause and have been in full menopause for 7 years now – and despite my best efforts I struggle to lose even a tiny bit of weight and if I did lose it – any “misdemeanour” would result in putting twice as much back on. I’ve lost 5 kilos so far and have been eating really well. Not starving myself at all. But eating different things. Obviously, all added sugar is out – that was the whole point of Sugar Free February – but also, I have cut back on carbs significantly. Not to the extremes of a keto diet (I’ve been there, done that and it’s brutal) but really focusing on keeping my carb intake to no more than 35% of my daily diet and a maximum of 125gms of carbs a day. It’s been hard as I have needed to track the carbs on an app (I use Cronometer) which is time consuming and a bit tedious – but it won’t be forever, just until I find the magic number that keeps my blood glucose stable, my weight going in the right direction, but also a sustainable diet that I can enjoy and stick to.

There is no way I can follow a diet of lettuce leaves – this girl likes her food!! In fact, I like all aspects of food – shopping for it, preparing it, and cooking it. Cooking is one of my biggest and most enjoyable past times – I show love towards people by cooking for them – and I simply cannot imagine eating the same old boring stuff every day. So, this is a major consideration to take into account.

Because my weight has gone down my BMI has dropped too – and I’m now in a much heathier range. Still overweight but closer to normal than I was. For the record I don’t much like the terminology used for BMI but it is what it is – and it’s as good a tool as any to measure if my body size is going up or down. My concern was that with a BMI of over 28 I was at increased risk of Covid-19 but now it is lower and that is quite reassuring.

The nicest thing about the weight loss is that it is fat in the right places that is going. Martin rolled over the other morning for a cuddle and said “it’s feels nice – it’s less of a splodge” I know most women would punch him for that – but that’s Martin!! My body fat percentage has also dropped – it’s still quite high but at least it is moving in the right direction.

Talking of Martin – he’s happy – he’s still getting cake – although I keep threatening to cut the supply if he won’t cut back on how many peanuts he is eating!!

He’s working so hard on the house that there is no way I could deny him his cake – I fear he would mutiny if I did, down tools and go on strike!

So, I’ve been using my Kenwood Mixer to knock up some recipes that I have found on the Internet.

One of my Knit and Knatter ladies is on a Keto diet so I thought it would be nice to make some keto cakes to take round for that so that she could have something. But unfortunately, the combination of coconut flour and artificial sweetener is not to everyone’s taste so it seemed a pointless task.

But using the principles of Keto – I have tweaked a few recipes and come up with a few sweet treats that Martin really likes, and I can still eat in small quantities so we can enjoy an afternoon tea together – sometimes in the form of a picnic on one of our Sunday afternoon drives to one of the stunningly beautiful surrounding areas we are blessed with around here.

So, we are having our cake and eating it – so to speak. And very glad that we are able to do this. It’s about balance, I guess. Some people will see a 5kg weight loss in six weeks as not very much – but for me it’s about all aspects – a healthy diet, varied food, making sure that I get ALL the nutrients that I need it, and keeping my sweet toothed husband happy (so he keeps on working).

I’ve heard a lot said about Meghan and Harry in the last few days – some of which is along the lines of she wanted her cake and to eat it too – that she should have known what she was marrying in to, that she couldn’t expect her life to be normal etc.

I’ve watched the trolls out in force on the social media, the comments on news reports, people’s posts on Facebook and once again I am shocked by the hostility that people can feel towards someone they have never met, do not know apart from what the (racist) UK Tabloids allow them to see.

Being in France and not having “normal” TV just yet (we only have Netflix and the Internet) I have not yet seen the full interview – but I have seen online the short clips from it – the salient points – and I honestly think I’m watching a different interview to that of some of the people who hate her so much.

I see a couple who are clearly in love, and in support of each other. I see two people who are guarded about what they say, knowing how damaging it could be – but equally wanting to speak their truth.

I’m a blogger – I know how sometimes people don’t really understand why I would want my “dirty laundry” aired in public – and I know WHY I feel compelled to share aspects of my life that maybe some would consider too private. I can’t pretend to know why Harry and Meghan did the interview, but I would hazard a guess that it was for similar reasons to me.

I do it because I have a story to tell, a voice that needs to be heard, and in a world where people don’t always take the time to find out why we are who we are, why we behave the way we do, I would prefer that my story is told by me, myself and I – and no-one else.

I think Harry and Meghan did try to speak their truth quietly and privately – but when their cries for help were not heard, with the UK Gutter Press and public turned against them – they probably felt they had no other options.

We all have our story to be heard, we all have our challenges that we need people to understand.

Yes, the Queen is a remarkable woman who has devoted her life for nearly 70 years to the United Kingdom and 15 of the Commonwealth realms. But that doesn’t mean that every unfortunate woman (or man) who marries into the Royal Family will find it easy to fit in. It’s not as if they (the Royal Family – the House of Windsor – The Firm – The Institution – call it what you may) make it easy is it? Diana was never accepted, Camilla was initially outright rejected, Fergie wasn’t liked.

Meghan pointed out that palace employees will lie to cover up things to protect some members of the Royal Family – but failed to protect her.

I’ve seen it written that Meghan is out to destroy the Royal Family with her lies! Not so, you only have to look at Prince Philips’ track record (he pursued the Queen when he was 18 and she was 13 – in today’s standards that would make national news as grooming). He doesn’t need Meghan to run him down – there are a multitude of his misdemeanours over the years on the Internet including terrible misogyny and racism.

It seems like people will see the side of the story that they want to see. Based on their own feelings about the person, also how they are influenced by other people in their life, by the newspapers they read, the news channel they watch. Those who don’t like Meghan will probably never see it from her point of view even if it is blindingly obvious to someone else.

All I know is, Harry lost his mother at 12 years old. In a “normal” family there is no way on earth that a 12-year-old child would be made to walk behind his mother’s coffin with the lights of the cameras from the worldwide press flashing all around him, with more people that he had ever seen in his entire life watching from the side-lines, and knowing that the world watch watching through their TV screens.

Harry has seen reports about his mother suffering bulimia through her unhappiness with her life in the Royal Family

Harry has read reports that his “ginger hair” is an indicator that Charles is not his father – and then we wonder why he would be unhappy with an issue being made about his baby’s skin colour? Meghan is an American woman. In American it is a huge issue to discuss the race of a child – culturally that alone explains why she would be so offended. And please, anyone who might suggest that if she comes to live in the UK she must adopt those ways – that in itself is racism….can you not see that? Failure to accept a person’s cultural background is racism. A person moving to another country must accept that things might be different but that doesn’t happen overnight and things that are an inherent part of their make-up don’t just dissipate on the plane over. We know that from moving to France. We will always be British. We were raised British. We accept the cultural differences in France but sometimes those differences bewilder us. We understand that because we have lived in another country. People who never live in another country to that in which they are born really should not pretend to try to understand how it is for someone who is trying to do just that – let alone do it in the most famous of Royal Families.

Sadly, Archie and the new baby girl will be able to access and read FOREVER all the horrible things that have been written about them and their parents before they were EVEN BORN

And maybe even worse – the people writing these awful comments about Meghan – don’t they realise that Meghan won’t read this – but their own families will. So, if they have a family member who ever felt suicidal that person will know just who they cannot go to for support!!!

So, back to Harry. A family that inflicts that on a child can’t have their “cake and eat it” – you can’t have it both ways. If you cause that level of distress to a child then how can you expect them to not have mental health issues further down the line???? And it is shocking that Meghan was not given access to appropriate Mental Health support. Suicidal thoughts need professional intervention, not a little chat with your new brother and sister-in-law who clearly have got a better grasp on the stiff upper lip that is required for their life – lucky them!!!

Maybe this is the Royal Family’s karma?

Maybe this scandal will be the force for change that is needed?

Maybe finally the Royal Family will realise that without resorting back to incest (yes as recently as up until the first World War they were all marrying their cousins) the only way for them to procreate will be to welcome new partners with open arms – no matter what their skin colour, their nationality and to help and support them in understanding the role they must play

I have to say, I quite agree with Hilary Mantel who likened the royal family to pandas

“expensive to conserve and ill-adapted to any modern environment”

“But aren’t they interesting? Aren’t they nice to look at” he wrote later in 2013. “Some people find them endearing, some pity them for their precarious situation, everybody stares at them, and however airy the enclosure they inhabit, it’s still a cage”.

Harry has found his escape. He would have gone quietly I am sure, if he had been allowed to by the British Press. In the absence of any human decency from the press he done the only thing he could do.

He stuck up for himself, and his wife – who he clearly loves – against bullies.

I admire him. I would want my husband to do the same. Who wouldn’t?

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